KOKS sits in the shadow of the mountains at Leynavatn in the Faroe Islands

Foreign chefs doing weeks-long pop-ups in Singapore seem to have had a resurgence over the past two years given that most of us have been left grounded. Foodies here have jumped at any novelty offered, quickly snapping up seats to the latest decorated chef visiting; the Mirazur and Gaggan Anand pop-up at Mandala Club sold out instantly. 

Even before Anand finishes his residency, there’s already a new hot chef in town – executive chef Poul Andrias Ziska of KOKS Restaurant. The two Michelin-starred restaurant hails from the Faroe Islands, an archipelago in Denmark, also known to be one of the most hardest to reach places in the Michelin guide. 

(Related: Mirazur’s pop-up at Mandala Club: a behind-the-scenes look)

Executive Chef Poul Andrias Ziska
Executive chef, Poul Andrias Ziska

He’ll be taking up residency for four weeks (all but sold out, save for a few lunch seatings) at Grand Hyatt Singapore, along with his team. From the green vistas of Faroe to tropical Singapore, it’ll be the team and Ziska’s first time here. 

Sebastian Kern, director of Food & Beverage at Grand Hyatt Singapore, tells us that the pop-up has been in the works since July 2021 in partnership with the Chef’s Residence programme. “KOKS and Grand Hyatt Singapore carry very similar foundations pertaining to sustainability, environmental friendliness and ethical food sourcing. It is the perfect match to join forces for this one of a kind event series at Grand Hyatt Singapore,” he adds. 

We catch up with Ziska before he arrives to find out a little more about how he plans to introduce diners here to a slice of modern Faroese cuisine. 

Congratulations on the residency! How long has this residency taken to plan? 

Thank you. We are still planning on the residency, but we first started to talk and strategize back in the late Summer of 2021. But with our operations, it wasn’t always constant planning. As KOKS closes from the beginning of December till March, now it is the perfect timing for us to finalise matters and be doing this residency!

How has KOKS been faring in the time of Covid-19? 

It has been 2 strange years, and we had the lockdown occurring in the Faroe Islands. As our guests consist of 80-90% foreigners from abroad, no guests were keen to travel to the Faroe Islands and stay in quarantine for 2 weeks before coming to KOKS! So that kind of ruined our business completely.

At the same time, there were little to no restrictions on the Island, so we opened up a sister restaurant in the town area to cater to the local market with a shorter and more affordable menu. This was fun to do, and it kept us busy during the pandemic. Now, we are looking to keep the sister restaurant permanent!

Overall we’ve been busy, and manpower was affected in a good way! As many restaurants were closed globally, we received a lot of applications to join the team.

Part of KOKS’ appeal is being isolated, hard to get to and a pitch black landscape at night so guests focus solely on the food. How are you intending to recreate that feeling? 

To be honest, we cannot fully recreate that pitch black feeling here in Singapore. Instead we are looking to bring our DNA from the Faroe Islands – team, ambience, outfits, food, etc. I am going to have with me my team of seven, along with the outfits that we normally wear for operations on the Faroe Islands and the natural soundscape of the Faroe Islands.

(Related: Magic Square: A secret restaurant helmed by young Singaporean chefs)

KOKS Langoustine Roll
Langoustine Roll

Which Faroese ingredients are you the most excited to let diners here try? Why?

The ingredients that we will be using in the dishes for the residency come partially from the Island. It is then combined with the local ingredients here from Singapore. However, one can look forward to some of our star dishes like Langoustine Roll, Horse Mussel with Grilled Broccoli, and Fermented Lamb with Intestines – it has a very strong flavour from its fat.

How have you and the team researched the Asian ingredients that you’ll be incorporating into your dishes? 

We did some of our research online, but we felt we should look and research the food in depth when in Singapore. Being able to taste and smell in person makes a huge difference. We do have a few dishes that we feel can be adapted and recreated anywhere in the world – it is going to be exciting to explore these new ingredients!

(Related: Peak exclusive: What Rene Redzepi fed us at Noma pop-up, Sydney)

Would KOKS be continuing pop-up residencies in other countries in the region as well

Yes, of course! I think it is a fantastic way to travel, discover new food, educate people about Faroe Island and get closer to the locals! At the moment, there is nothing set in stone, but Asia’s, especially Japan’s, ingredients work extremely well with the flavour profile of KOKS. Japan could maybe be the next place we’ll go to, who knows?

Is there any food that you’re dying to try in Singapore? 

Tough question! I’ve read up about Singapore and the food to expect but for me it is difficult to just read and imagine about flavours based on just words! There are so many different foods I’ve read about, especially the street food scene. I guess we’ll have to spend a few days just trying new stuff and eating our way through!